In this program, we examine the Fair Trade movement, which aims to pay workers in other countries a fair wage and to provide decent working and living conditions for them. We talking first with Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, who manages the Fair Trade program for Global Exchange in San Francisco, including the Cocoa Program.

Then we go local to talk with Liza Tedesco, the interim general manager of Chico Natural Foods about the Co-op’s program to provide Fair Trade food in the store. 

Listen to Ecotopia #19 Online Now!
To download the show as MP3, right click (Mac users control-click) and select “Download File As”

A Primer on Fair Trade and Free Trade

We begin by explaining the concept and practice of Fair Trade and to distinguish it from free trade, which is something altogether different and in many respects diametrically opposed to Fair Trade.

From TransFair USA, the organization that oversees the movement  comes this description of the origins of the Fair Trade movement:
The roots of Fair Trade can be traced back to projects initiated by churches in North America and Europe in the late 1940s. Their goal
was to provide relief to refugees and other poverty stricken communities by selling their handicrafts to Northern markets. Compared to conventional trading structures, these Alternative Trade Organizations offered higher returns to producers in the developing world through direct trade and fair prices. In the US, organizations such as Ten Thousand Villages and SERRV have followed this model with Fair Trade handicrafts, and in 1986, Equal Exchange was formed to import Fair Trade coffee to the US market.  Five criteria must be met for goods to earn the Fair Trade Label:

·       Fair price [and a living wage for their product.]

·       Fair labor conditions: [ … including] freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

·       Direct trade: […] eliminating unnecessary middlemen.

·       Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade […] workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.

·       Community development: Fair Trade [businesses invest …] in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

·       Environmental sustainability: Harmful […] chemicals and G[enetically] M[odified] O[rganism]s are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable [production methods that protect workers’ health]  and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

From Global Ministries comes this even handed discussion of Fair Trade versus Free Trade:

Free trade agreements can be beneficial.  They provide access to one another’s markets and allow countries to concentrate on the production of goods they are best capable of producing.  According to Oxfam, a British based non-profit organization dealing with the issue of free trade, “participation in world trade has figured prominently in many of the most successful cases of poverty reduction-and compared with aid, it has far more potential to benefit the poor.” 

The drawbacks to free trade described by Global Ministries include:

Multinational companies are also taking advantage of highly exploitative employment practices in developing countries and using relaxed labor laws to their advantage while workers are being denied their rights and are forced to work long hours in hazardous conditions for very low pay.  The issue of patents is another concern.  Developed countries have been trying to protect their large pharmaceutical companies by introducing patent protections into free trade agreements. This would mean that generic brands of essential medicines would not be allowed to be sold and this could result in the doubling of costs of medicines.  This could result in devastating consequences for developing countries dealing with epidemic numbers of people infected with HIV/AIDS.[…]

[Additional free trade problems]  include the privatization of government services such as education, health care, water, environmental protection services, postal services, prisons and transportation.  This will mean that foreign corporations will be competing with local governments to provide basic services thus causing prices for essential services to become unaffordable to many.

Our Interview with Adrienne Fitch-Frankel:

Adrienne Fitch-Frankel is Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Cocoa Campaigner. She also campaigns for conflict-free diamonds and was part of the Global Exchange-coordinated coalition for Sweatfree legislation in San Francisco. 

  • Please tell us about your work with the Fair Trade Cocoa campaign at Global Exchange. More broadly, please also tell us a little about Global Exchange’s Fair Trade efforts and on-line store.

·         Why support Fair Trade? Who benefits?

·         Earlier in the program, we briefly reviewed the distinction between Fair Trade and free trade. What do you see as the major differences? What’s wrong with free trade’s efforts to reduce tariffs and open borders? Why do you support Fair Trade?

·         You have been involved in an extraordinary range of activities promoting democracy and human rights, protecting the environment, securing peace, and ending poverty. Who are your role models? What inspired you to become a global activist? 

·         You have been active in a number of local or domestic projects, including Sweatfree legislation in San Francisco. Can the principles of the Fair Trade movement be extended to include the U.S.?

·         A criticism of Fair Trade is that, to date, Fair Trade items are primarily luxury or boutique items: coffee, chocolate, crafts and gifts. For example, on the GX web site, one can Fair Trade buy sneakers, but you can’t get a lot of daily necessities like undies, kitchen or laundry soap, and chewing gum. Is there a chance that will change? Can Fair Trade come to rival Safeway or Target or WalMart in product variety and/or influence?

 Be sure to check out the Global Exchange web site for its Fair Trade campaign and Fair Trade store. The store is at, and the main site at Global  is

Our Inteview with Liza Tedesco:

Liza Tedesco is the interim general manager of Chico Natural Foods, the co-op, here in Chico. She also works with Equal Exchange, which supplies Fair Trade products all over the U.S.  Liza has been a speaker at the “This Way to Sustainability Conference” at Chico State and has collaborated with the Chico Peace and Justice Center a Fair Trade meeting for local women. 

  • Chico Natural Foods is a major Fair Trade store here in town. What products do you carry?  Why do you choose to carry Fair Trade?
  • How do the Fair Trade products get to Chico? Who is the supplier?  
  • How do you balance the issue of the buy local movement with the Fair Trade movement?
  • Fair Trade tries to eliminate the “middle man”—why is Equal Exchange not just another middle man? How do prices for Fair Trade compare to prices of other goods you might purchase? Is Fair Trade competitive?
  • What kind of response do you have from customers about Fair Trade products? [Locally, coffee and chocolate seem to be the big items.] Do people want more? Could you supply a greater variety?
  • As part of your work with Equal Exchange, you went to Peru and stayed at the home of coffee growers Carlos and Reyna Herrera. on their two-hectare coffee farm. Please tell us about that visit. What has Fair Trade meant to them? Did you visit any non-Fair Trade coffee farms in Peru, and if so, what was the difference?
  • Please tell us about the “Local Women in Fair Trade” meeting in October. What was the purpose?  Who attended? What was accomplished?
  • Chico has now been designated a Fair Trade Town, recognizing that the Co-Op, along with fifteen other businesses, sells Fair Trade goods.  What do you think this means for the people of Chico? 
  • Putting on your prophesy hat, what do you predict as the future for Fair Trade, especially as we are in the midst of an economic downturn and a crisis in world food prices and availability? Can Fair Trade have a hand in solving those problems?

Do-It-Yourself: Taking Action on Fair Trade

•  Global Ministries recommends that you monitor the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is an agency of over 200 people who  negotiate directly with foreign governments to create trade agreements, resolve disputes and participate in global trade policy organizations. They also meet with governments, business groups, legislators and public interest groups to gather input on trade issues and explain the president’s trade policy positions. You can urge that the Representative always negotiate for fair trade practices when negotiating on behalf of the United States so that all countries involved will benefit.  The contact information is listed on their web site,, l and this is a good site to visit to inform yourself about the USA’s myriad and complex trade agreements. http://gbgm

•  Learn more about the Free Trade Area of the Americas  You may find information by contacting the United States Trade Representative office or by contacting Oxfam America at 1-800-776-9326 or visiting their website at  You may also visit the official FTAA website at And you can learn Frequently asked questions, top ten reasons to oppose FTAA, alternatives, updates, and how to get involved.

·         The next time you go shopping try to purchase products that have been traded fairly.  You can get a good idea about the range of products available at the Chico Peace and Justice Center Fair Trade store 526 Broadway, and CPJC can also give you a list of the sixteen area merchants who care Fair Trade goods.

Playlist  for Eco 19 Fair Trade

1. Koo Koo For Cocoa         2:26    The Hit Crew   Tribute To Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory 

2. Chocolate (Introduction) (Feat. Laure Sardin)           1:04    Juk Woo-Red Rain   Chocolate     

3. One More Cup Of Coffee           3:46    Bob Dylan     Desire                                   

4. The Coffee Song             2:53    Frank Sinatra            Ring-A-Ding Ding                           

5. Day-O (Banana Boat Song)      3:05    Harry Belafonte        Calypso                                

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary          The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. Yes We Have No Bananas        3:20    Banana Airlines       Banana Airlines Beste